Former Army general Jovito Palparan is escorted by soldiers from the Malolos Regional Trial Court in Bulacan, where he was found guilty yesterday of the kidnapping and illegal detention of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.
Michael Varcas
Life term for ‘The Butcher’ Jovito Palparan Jr.
Ramon Efren Lazaro (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2018 - 12:00am

Palparan found guilty of kidnapping UP students

MALOLOS, Philippines — The retired Army major general dubbed “The Butcher” by human rights groups will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Jovito Palparan Jr. and his two co-accused soldiers were found guilty yesterday of kidnapping and serious illegal detention involving two University of the Philippines students who have been missing for 12 years.

The defendants were also ordered to indemnify the family of the missing with P100,000 in civil damages and P200,000 as moral damages.

As the verdict of Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 15 Judge Alexander Tamayo was read, Palparan shouted at the judge, “Duwag ka (You’re a coward)!” adding,“Tarantado! Gago! (Jerk! Stupid!).”

His counsel and security soldiers tried to calm him down as the judge warned Palparan of contempt of court.

The cases against Palparan and his co-accused – Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio – were filed by Erlinda Cadapan and Connie Empeño, mothers of missing UP student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who were snatched in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006.

The complainants were supported by militant groups Desaparecidos, Karapatan, and End Impunity Alliance as well as by members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

Defense counsels said they would appeal the cases and ask the judge to keep them under military custody, but Tamayo said the accused were now convicted and custody should be transferred to the Bureau of Prisons.

Palparan, Anotado and Osorio were heavily guarded by at least 10 Army soldiers inside the courtroom and at least six other soldiers outside the door of the Bulacan RTC Branch 15.

Members of militant groups held an indignation rally against the three convicts outside the RTC building while a phalanx of policemen was deployed against the demonstrators, who lined up on the pavement pictures of their missing relatives, friends and colleagues believed abducted during the time of when Palparan was still in active service.

Upon learning of the verdict, the bereaved kin welcomed the outcome and offered Tamayo a “taas kamay na pagpupugay (arms raised in salute)” for his decision.

Cadapan also appealed to the Army soldiers to produce the bodies of Sherlyn and Karen.

Palace, military respect ruling

Malacañang respects the court’s ruling on Palparan’s case and expressed hope that the victims’ families will get justice.

“We respect the decision of the court and we would want justice to be done to the victims,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing in Benguet.

“As it has been and always will be, the position of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is submission to the majesty of the courts and respect for the rule of law,” the military said in a statement issued yesterday after learning of the court ruling on Palparan’s case.

AFP spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said the military “also respects whatever legal recourse are available to and will be availed (by those convicted) under the law and the Rules of Court.”

He noted that the AFP has yet to receive and see a copy of the decision of the court on Palparan, Anotado and Osorio.

Warning to state forces

For senators, Palparan’s conviction should serve as a warning to state security forces on violating human rights.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Palparan’s conviction should send a strong signal to the AFP, the Philippine National Police (PNP) “and the rest of those in government that sooner or later, the law and our justice system will hold to account violators of human rights.”

He also expressed hopes that the whereabouts of Cadapan and Empeño will be known.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito welcomed the conviction even if he thought it was long overdue.

“Once the conviction becomes final, to be fair, he must be jailed at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP),” Ejercito said, referring to Palparan.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the verdict showed that the long arm of the law will eventually reach human rights violators.

“You may be able to temporarily escape and hide from accountability; you may be able to bribe your way for temporary freedom; you may be able to hide behind those in power, but justice and history will catch up with you,” Hontiveros said in Filipino.

‘Long-overdue verdict’

The seven-man militant Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives yesterday hailed the penalty imposed by the Malolos RTC against Palparan for the disappearance of Cadapan and Empeño.

“This is a long-overdue verdict for him. This then should be taken as a strong warning to other human rights violators, then and now, that reckoning day will eventually come,” Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

“Now that Palparan et al. have been found guilty, other human rights violators should be next,” the progressive lawmaker said vaguely, without giving specifics but most likely referring to what they called the strongman administration of President Duterte.

“Our fight to call for justice for the victims does not end with this guilty verdict. We demand Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan and all the disappeared be surfaced. We must continue to fight and call justice for all the victims of violence,” ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said.

“Accountability for these human rights violations is urgent, especially where the victims are children and their teachers and schools, national minorities, the Moro people and marginalized sectors,” the legislator from party-list ACT Teachers added.

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao called on other human rights victims to come out.

“May this serve as a warning to military officials who are presently wreaking havoc on the lives of the people, especially in the martial ruled Mindanao, against the lumad, farmers and other marginalized sectors,” he said.

Casilao also demanded justice for another victim of enforced disappearance, Jonas Burgos who, in April 2007, was snatched by military men that allegedly involved then Army intelligence chief Eduardo Año, now acting secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

He said there were more than 1,200 victims of extrajudicial killings and thousands of other human rights abuses under the nine-year presidency of incumbent Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which was touted as Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program.

‘Justice still served’

Justice might have been served late to Palparan, but the main point is that it was still served, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

The Bulacan court issued a warrant of arrest for Palparan in 2011 but he went into hiding for three years. He was arrested in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) executive secretary Fr. Edu Gariguez said Palparan deserves to be given the guilty verdict because he committed a “monstrous crime of killing and torturing those who are in progressive movements working to defend the rights of the poor.”

“I have personally investigated the spate of killings in Mindoro orchestrated by (Palparan). I was also targeted by him for liquidation. The guilty verdict is justice served. He should be made accountable for his crime,” Gariguez added.

Ordinary inmate

Palparan will be treated “just like any other ordinary inmate” once he is turned over to the NBP to serve his sentence.

“Makikipagsiksikan siya sa RDC (He will be crammed inside the Reception and Diagnostic Center),” Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) chief Ronald dela Rosa told reporters yesterday.

Palparan will be processed at the facility for 60 days, according to the former PNP chief.

“On his first five days, he will be in isolation… Medical, psychological and other check-up procedures will be administered to him,” Dela Rosa said, adding Palparan would also be briefed about the rules inside the NBP.

In the next 55 days, Palparan will be assessed as to which facility he will be jailed at.

‘Step forward for justice’

Rights groups welcomed the Bulacan court’s decision to convict Palparan.

“This is a step forward for justice, though partial, for so long as Karen and Sherlyn remain missing and numerous other violations remain unresolved,” Karapatan deputy secretary-general Roneo Clamor said.

“This case has dragged on for so long, adding to the pain of the victims’ relatives and to the benefit of Palparan who is detained at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City. – With Alexis Romero, Michael Punongbayan, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Ghio Ong, Rhodina Villanueva, Ding Cervantes, Mayen Jaymalin

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